Morning in Manhattan. Six floors below me, on a roof deck, a woman sat, eyes closed, in a lotus position. The small black dog by her side reminded me of the one in Bonnard’s last bath image. But variegated foliage I have watched mature framed this picture. My loft’s industrial window creaked open. The dog jumped up. The woman remained still as a Buddha. By my side, Lola slept on.
This was TriBeCa from the rooftops.
This was not the first morning I had secretly shared with a woman and dog on that deck. But, this was a new pair. The tall blonde having coffee with her standard poodle was gone. In their place, a curly redhead and alert shelter dog. After a Florida winter, I was back to find plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Below, there were bidding wars for the homes of neighbors staying in the country. New families were younger; streets, meaner. Our building had installed brighter lights and a new, state of the art security system. Single women now walked their dogs together at night.
This was TriBeCa on the street.
I packed up Lola, dresses, bags, shoes and drove to the Hamptons. But, unlike other returns from Florida winters, I arrived to a surprisingly stocked closet. Right, I remembered, I spent the last two years here. Gallons of alcohol, rubbing and otherwise, were another reminder of a time I would just as soon forget.
This was my Hamptons, from the closet out.
For the bigger picture I turned to behind-the-privets realtor Debbie Loeffler, who lives at the top but somehow keeps her feet on the ground.
“It’s been a seismic shift out here — from rich to richer!” she said. “And there are no working people left. During the pandemic, many realized little family houses they thought were worth $100,000 could sell for $900,000. They took the money and moved south. There’s no more affordable housing. If you don’t have a landscaper or a plumber, you’re not finding one now.”
And the New Yorkers who drove up those prices? “When school opened in Manhattan this fall, a lot of my clients returned to the city,” Loeffler told me. “They couldn’t wait to get back to their old lives. Others found they loved it here and stayed.
“Real estate has definitely quieted down. The rental market is basically non-existent. There are several factors: people have lost a lot of money in the stock market; people are traveling; interest rates are going up. And all the people who raced out here in the last two years and bought houses in a panic that they couldn’t afford are flooding the rental market. The chic mentality made them think they could always get $100,000 a month and it would pay for itself.”
Last year that was true. This year, these homes are empty. They can’t even get new furniture. Orders remain surprisingly backlogged. “I think Colette’s (a Hamptons’ consignment store chain) probably made the most money of anybody last year,” Debbie laughed. “Everybody cleaned out their closets, basements and attics and gave it to resale. Then, they realized it would take a year or more to get a new couch!” Back to the consignment stores.
“Three years ago, you could go into the ARF thrift store twice a year and see a lot of the same stuff. Last year, every two weeks the store was completely new. If you go to Jonathan Adler, you may have to wait months for a new table. You can walk out of a consignment store with one in your Range Rover.”
Or you can go to the Southampton Fresh Air Home DDD Sale and Auction Benefit Gala, our favorite kick-off to summer. The Home, at 120 years old, is one of the Hamptons oldest charities, a camp and year round programs for kids with physical disabilities. Off season, the Old Guard, and the designers who love them, fill the building with their leftover treasures. They’re priced at a fraction of value to fundraise at the gala. Year after year, red wine in hand, I shop it long and hard, socialize, then, shop some more.
Consignment competition also affected them. “The donations started out with a trickle,” designer Barbara Page Glatt, of Barbara Page Home Interior Design, told us.
As the Schoolhouse Designer for the biggest ticket items, Barbara had first pick. “It came in differently this year,” she explained. “We usually get a lot of stuff on the front end. No one expected these supply chain issues to drag on as they did. So, people held onto what they had. I guess their sofas or lamps finally arrived. Because, all of a sudden, in the last six weeks, donations flowed in. We ended up with exactly what we needed.”
And sold it all. “Furniture sales returned to pre-pandemic levels,” Southampton Fresh Air Home Executive Director Tom Naro told me. “The extended shopping times (we opened an hour earlier than usual) gave guests extra time to make their purchases.”
Even enough time for the shoppers who come in with their designers. “Some people just look at art, some just want china,” said Glatt. “People with new homes scoop up sofas, dressers and tables. With fulfillment still an issue, people used the DDD to get their houses ready for the summer.”
Finds included “a Restoration Hardware big dreamy sofa, paired with China Seas pillows, slipper chairs, a game table, a new custom made dining table seating 12, Ralph Lauren chairs upholstered in navy blue silk, Mecox Gardens rattan, great china and baccarat, and lots of fun quirky pieces.”
This was the second year I spotted furniture I had bought for four times this sale’s price.
Having secured a gold leaf and velvet bench for Lola to lounge on and a Waterford dish for her food, it was time for mine. Boxes, not groaning boards, of gourmet hors d’oeuvres, catered by Canard, were another nod to Covid consciousness.
Then, it was time for my yearly catch up with Aida Turturro, known for portraying Tony Soprano’s high strung sister. She’s become my sister in DDD shopping. We’ve seen each other here for so many years, we’ve become Same Time Next Year friends. Shop, don’t talk first, then compare scores. Back in the day, so many items I liked already had “Turturro/Sold” stickers. Now, both our homes are filled. “You get to the point where you can’t buy too much more for yourself,” she said. So, she shops for friends.
I asked Aida for her take on this winter in the Hamptons. “I don’t really live in the Hamptons. I live in Montauk,” she reminded me. “I’m not a jet setter. I don’t go out. But, sure, there are less people this summer. Last year was insane. Now, it’s not as busy. Everyone’s traveling. And it got so costly here that people are trying something new.”
She stayed home all winter, “because of Covid and work,” She has a recurring role in Blacklist. “I love them,” she said of cast and crew. “They’re like family to me. And I think I did a movie. I can’t remember. Yeah, I did. And I’m hanging out with my girlfriends having fun.” (I found two 2022 movies she is in: Call Jane and Just One Kiss.)
I caught her later holding onto a lamp she had just bought, and took the shot. “It’s a cute pic,” I told her. “Want to see it?”
“No. No. NO! I NEVER look at my pictures and I never read stories about me! You know that!”
I guess I do. So, I changed the subject. “I’ll be here tomorrow morning (when everything is reduced again, for the general public),” I told her. “I only live five minutes away. “You are SO LUCKY,” she replied. Then, a lightbulb went off in her head. “I need one more thing!” she exclaimed. And bolted.
Who made it happen? Madeline Hult Elghanayan and Silke Tsitiridis were Honorary Chairmen; Charlotte Bonstrom, Raya Keis Knight and Amanda Holmén, Chairmen; Marybeth Mullen and Isolde O’Hanlon, Vice Chairmen, Liz Forget, Auction Chairman; Emily Chien and Thomas Mahoney, Wine Auction Chairmen; Ann R. Grimm, Design & Decoration Chairman; Tish Bliss, Christie Hansen, Christl Meszkat and Ann Yawney, Design & Decoration Co-Chairmen; Sheila Comparetto, Maria del Rio, Traudl Geraghty, Ana Maria Holme and Nannette Meyers, Design and Decoration Vice Chairmen. Nicky Grant is SFAH Board President.
Photographs by Rob Rich.